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Truth is Powerful

Education alone won’t change anti-science views, study finds


We’ve all met know-it-alls. But even worse are the know-it-alls who know nothing.

Now a new study finds that those who suffer from “knowledge overconfidence” — or the belief that they’re highly informed — tend to be factually uninformed.

And this can prompt them to reject the scientific consensus on issues like genetically modified foods, climate change, nuclear power, homeopathic medicine, evolution, the Big Bang theory and COVID-19 mitigation measures.

But because those who know less about relevant issues think they know more, the standard practice of using education to effect changes in mistaken beliefs typically doesn’t work, the authors find.

“Our research suggests that there may be a problem of overconfidence getting in the way of learning, because if people think they know a lot, they have minimal motivation to learn more,” said lead author Nick Light, a Portland State University assistant professor of marketing. “People with more extreme anti-scientific attitudes might first need to learn about their relative ignorance on the issues before being taught specifics of established scientific knowledge.”

The study, published in Science Advances , finds that “across seven critical issues that enjoy substantial scientific consensus, as well as attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines and mitigation measures like mask wearing and […]

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